How do I introduce a new dog to my existing dog?

THU APR 28 2016

When your pup is the only fur member in the family getting all the attention, there's likely to be a bit of tension when a new pet is introduced. Figuring out who will be top dog and sharing the love is difficult in the beginning for most pets. It's important to always exercise caution when introducing two pets for the first time, particularly if one dog is significantly smaller or aggressive, to limit anxiety and prevent physical conflict.

Our steps are designed to decrease the likelihood of aggression between your pets however if you have a particularly anti-social or territorial dog, we recommend speaking with an experienced behavioural trainer to ensure both pets will be safe.


One last point before we start

Aside from body stance and vocalisation, dogs rely heavily on scent when meeting new people and animals. In fact this is why dogs often sniff each other's derrieres when they meet. A dog's scent is predominantly dispersed through the anal sacs making this the prime sniffing spot to say hello.

To follow these steps, you'll need the help of a friend or relative that your existing dog trusts.

Step 1. When you bring your new dog home, get your helper to take your existing pooch out for a walk. During this time let your new dog explore the home and get familiar with the smells of your house and other dog.

Step 2. Once your existing dog is back from their walk, have your helper take the new dog to a closed room or outside and give them of your existing dog's toys or blankets to play with. This step is really important as they are learning to associate positive thoughts with the smell.

Step 3. Go about your regular activities with your existing dog; e.g. have a play or cuddle in front of the tv. Stick to your normal routine, don't give them the cold shoulder or smother them with affection.

Step 4. Alternate which dog is in the house every 20-30 minutes to help familiarise them with each other's fresh scent and encourage them to play with the other dog's toys.

Step 5. After rotating the dogs a few times, they should be ready to meet. Whenever you can, avoid introducing them at home as most dogs can be territorial; instead choose a neutral setting like the dog park. Decide on a route to the park with your helper and get them to walk ahead of you with one dog as you follow behind with the other. As most dogs love getting their walks, this is another way to associate each other's scent with a positive experience.

Step 6. Once you arrive at the park, keep both dogs leashed when they first meet for better control. If they are getting over excited, try to distance them and expend some of their extra energy with a game of tug-of-war or lap around the park. When they're ready to play unrestricted, leave their leashes attached in case you need to quickly intervene.


Back at home

It's important to remember what a significant adjustment this will be for your existing dog who is used to having your attention all to yourself. It's only natural to be concerned about your new dog being anxious in their new home but be careful not to skew your attention in their direction. When we recently introduced a new Border Collie cross into our home, our existing chihuahua, Nacho, (who was usually good natured) developed aggressive tendancies, destructive behaviours and would ignore learnt commands.

Without meaning to, we had been giving our new dog special attention. As she has much higher physical needs than our Chihuahua, she would get taken on extra walks while little Nacho was left at home. We also played with him less as he would play with our new dog instead. But with some changes to our routine, we've been able to get little Nacho back to his happy little self. Here are some tips we found really helped.

  • Put aside some time every day to spend solely with your existing dog. Whether it's going for a walk, playing with their favourite toy or simply getting cuddles and kisses on the couch.
  • Whenever you feed your pets, make sure your existing dog eats first (even if it's just a snack).
  • Allocate separate "safe zones" in the house for each pet to sleep in. We also allowed only our existing dog to sleep on the bed for the first few weeks.
  • Use an Adaptil diffuser or Adaptil collar to help reduce anxiety. Read Your Guide to Using Adaptil for more information.

Apart from using these steps in keeping your pets safe, they can also help reduce stress. A dog that's friendly with everyone at the park can often be territorial in their home. Always introduce new pets to each other in a neutral space where they both feel happy and relaxed. If problems persist and your dogs are still showing aggression to one another, an experienced trainer may be required for the safety and wellbeing of you and your pets.

Posted by Jessica Varley

Owner of a small Chihuahua army and lover of all things pets; when Jess isn't managing her pup Nacho's instagram you can find her writing about all the awesome new products on the Pet Circle website!

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